Training without compromising immune system

  • Creator
  • #39842

    Hi, hope everybody is well.
    Does anybody have any guidance on the level/type of training that can be undertaken without compromising the immune system.
    I use a garmin Fenix 3 which shows “training effect”, my training effect for the last 5 runs [over 7 days] has been between 3.2 and 3.4, showing a recovery time of around 18 hours in each case.
    I know there a many variables in working out what is right, but I was wondering if this is too much training.


  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #39862

    Good question. In general, I would ignore anything that uses a generic formula (i.e. any metric on an off-the-shelf watch) and find out what is specific to you.

    First, find your aerobic threshold heart rate with a treadmill drift test. (Search this site for lots of info on that.)

    Second, keep all of your training below it in intensity. For volume, only do enough volume so that you can do the same workout length day after day. If you can recover in 24 hours, then I’d say your volume is at the right level to not threaten immunity.

    Participant on #39906

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the reply.
    I’ll do some research on a treadmill drift test.


    Jan on #40070

    The Newsletter of Science of Ultra said this today:

    Continuing to train is not going to make you more susceptible to COVID-19 than to any other illness. Years ago, it was learned that the concentration of immune cells circulating in your blood stream declines after a bout of moderate to vigorous exercise. That must mean a weaker immune system, right? No, we now know this occurs because those immune system cells have migrated to the places where you might get an infection entering the body (lung, gut, skin). Your immunity is actually enhanced! Another reason for the confusion is that questionnaire studies found that athletes reported more symptoms consistent with colds after races or periods of very hard training. We now appreciate that features of the hard exercise itself manifest signs or symptoms that look like an illness, such as fatigue and cough (perhaps from airway irritation). Athletes who are actually tested for the presence of illness after a race or hard sessions are no more likely to be sick than anyone else; the incidence of illness among athletes is not significantly higher than in non-athletic populations. Moreover, exercise is one of the best stimuli for enhancing the function of your immune system long term. Here is a nice myth-busting review:

    Anonymous on #40071

    Preamble: I hope I’m wrong about this.

    But I can hear the Stage 4 confirmation bias metastasizing as I write this. With a license to train no matter the circumstance, athletes are going to use that info to go too far. It’s a license to have a cake and eat it too. (And that never ends well.) Overtraining and illness will result.

    All of it may be true. But even if it is all true, it doesn’t mean that every factor has been addressed. Based on anecdotal experience, the more narrow my remaining stress bandwidth, the more I get sick. I spent years trying to figure that out. The eventual solution for me was to “back the #$%^ up” and chill out. My long-term gains were much, much better after that.

    Other thoughts:

    * If enhanced immunity is present after a race, does it persist? Or is it initially strong, and then weak in the days that follow?
    * Have all the relevant factors been measured? Or is it a case of WYSIATI?
    * It’s common for field experience (by athletes and coaches) to be ahead of what the physiologists come along later to figure out. Is this another case?

    And to repeat, I’ll be happy if I’m wrong.

    Reed on #40235

    I read the abstract of that paper, skimmed the rest. The second and third parts of it offer a meta-analysis of studies that tend to show that regular exercise tends to keep people healthier. Doesn’t seem like a very controversial finding, or a very helpful one.

    The first part of the paper, in my opinion, suffers from the defect that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Their review of the literature fails to find evidence that (over-)exertion temporarily makes an athlete susceptible to infection or other illness. The experience and anecdotes of athletes and coaches generally doesn’t show up in scientific literature.

    And they state the wrong, opposite conclusion from at least one of the papers they cite:

    • From the linked Campbell & Turner paper: “Contrary to the aforementioned reports that exercise heightens infection incidence, it is often overlooked that other studies indicate that exercise participation may in fact reduce the incidence of infections.”
    • From one of the papers they cite: “We conclude that elite endurance athletes can achieve high training volumes only if they also experience few sick-days. […] The less sick you are the more you can train.” (Mårtensson 2014)

    For training guidance, I’ll listen more closely to coaches than to academics.

    “Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.” —Mark Rippetoe

    (Not sure what happened to my reply – if there are duplicate posts, please ignore…)

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